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The Dorothy Clive Garden in May

Today we returned to the Dorothy Clive Gardens to see what was going on in May and to see what had changed since our last visit in March. We had to miss out on our planned April visit due to commitments of giving talks to garden groups and opening our own garden. It was worth waiting a little longer because we really enjoyed our visit discovering so many changes and new things to see.


But an extra element for this visit was our arranged meeting with friends from college over 40 years ago. After meeting up again as a consequence of one of our college friends spotting me during my TV appearance in a gardening programme last year we now meet regularly at cafes and gardens.

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The mystery patch being developed this year is now beginning to take shape and we think it may eventually become a scree bed or gravel garden. We shall see. Time will tell.


The first views of the garden showed a much greener scene. Deciduous plants were beginning to show colour in their leaves and the last of the spring bulbs continued to flower.

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The area around the pond was gradually coming to life and the Camellia Walk shone pink.

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The first leaves were bursting from their buds in the Rose Garden and the productive areas showing promise.

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However the real star of the Dorothy Clive Gardens at this time of the year has to be the area called The Dingle, a woodland garden full of azaleas, rhododendrons and ferns, an area of bright colours and rich fresh greens. Enjoy wandering through the narrow winding gravel paths of The dingle with me, the Undergardener, our friends and of course my camera!

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We will return in June for our next excursion to the Dorothy Clive Gardens.


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The RHS Flower Show Tatton Park – Part 3 – the bigger picture

So far we have looked at the main show gardens and the work of young designers and school children but in this post I just want to share a miscellany of photos of the things that caught my eye at this year’s show. The RHS had chosen “Carnival” as the theme for this years’s show so bright colours shone everywhere. Even the sky was the brightest blue possible which after getting caught in thunder storms every other time we have visited the show was a real surprise. The colours were crisp and the shadows sharp.

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The sky was blue and the sun was bright and hot so we donned our sun hats, which co-ordinated well with our coffee cups.

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The show was full of colourful characters some real some some imaginary.

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This was probably the most colourful show garden of all designed by Janet Leigh for a school with children with specific needs. When it is rebuilt in the school it will be inviting to the children and so stimulating to all their senses. Even the pathways which looked like coloured tarmac was of a special “bounce back safety surface”. The way Janet had used coloured plastic sheet to cast moving coloured “reflections” on every surface was amazing.

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As a total contrast but also full of colour was the little garden created by members of the Cottage Garden Society for their promotional display.

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There was colour in the sales areas too, the flowers in pots for sale and these crazy garden slipper clogs – I just had to have pair so bought myself  some covered in red peppers just like those on the far right of the top row.

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Show gardens themselves and the nursery trade stands in the Floral Marquee had bright splashes of colour to catch the eye and the camera lens.

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This must be one of the strangest and most colourful things we have ever come across at an RHS show, a ferris wheel where every other seat was occupied by a giant excessively brightly coloured flower arrangement. Probably not the best fairground ride for those with hay fever!

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So that is the end of my three posts about the RHS Flower show at Tatton Park, but I thought I would finish with one final photo of a wonderful insect hotel. Being keen wildlife gardeners Jude and I always look out for interesting ideas. This one was a true beauty.


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RHS Flower Show Tatton Park – Part 2 – children as gardeners

One of the most enjoyable features of Tatton and perhaps also one of its most important elements is the encouragement of young talent be it young garden designers creating their first RHS show gardens or local schools trying their hand out at making gardens.

We always enjoy the work of the young designers at Tatton Flower Show and it is here that the RHS deliberately showcase young designers’ talent but sadly there seem so few. This year there were three young designers who had been given the opportunity to create their first RHS show gardens. I wish this chance was given to more! The standard of the work of these three though was astounding with a freshness in their planting and originality in the way they considered their brief. The first two shots are of the garden designed by the winner of the title “Young Garden Designer of the Year” and show his use of soft planting schemes of perennials scattered among grasses. This was a beautiful atmospheric garden which made us imagine what it would be like to lounge on that seat listening to the insect life busy in the grasses all around. It would be like lying in an old fashioned wildflower meadow.

The third shot shows another young designer’s garden which was in fact an outdoor gym. The idea was a good one but to me it was too much of a gym and too little garden.

The last three photos are of the third young designer’s garden which again has gentle planting featuring many grasses but it has the added interest of coloured glass screens which created interesting colour casts when the sun got to work. We enjoyed this garden too and could see a great future for the designer.

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The local schools always put on a show with the Wow factor. This year they were challenged to create gardens based on book characters and others took the chance of planting up recycled items. One thing that shows through is the young minds’ use of colour.

Share my pictures and revel in the ideas and the colours. Try to work out the stimulus for the gardens too.

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As you can imagine we came away feeling happier about the future of gardening and garden designers. Surely a few of the school children who exhibit at Tatton each year will go on to choose gardening in one form or another as a career. Let us hope so!

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The RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park – Part 1 – The Best of the RHS Shows?

Okay so Chelsea gets all the publicity, all the air time on the BBC and is the place to be seen if you class yourself a “celebrity”. Some even see it as another “Ascot”, a chance to be seen and to wear a designer outfit and a big hat! Hampton Court Show gets plenty of coverage too in the press and on TV but is not seen as “the place to be seen”.

I have been to Chelsea and won’t go again. There are simply too many people there who are not interested in plants or gardens and let’s be honest the show gardens are just “not real” are the? Sorry, but it is about time budgets for show gardens were controlled and designers were brought back down to earth and restricted to designing with plants in season.

However go to the RHS Tatton Show and you are in for a treat. It is a garden show for real gardeners and the show gardens are full of realistic ideas to stimulate the thinking gardener. However the BBC just give it two half-hour slots. Not enough celebrities in attendance and no visit by the Queen I suppose! Just look at the look of sheer delight on the faces of Monty Don and Carol Klein when they broadcast from Tatton and listen to their obvious and genuine enjoyment in their voices. This year the theme of the show was carnival time and it was promoted as “The Great Garden Carnival” with the elements of “inspire, escape, grow and feast”.

Just like the BBC coverage we shall start with the show gardens. These show gardens are far more realistic with most designers using plants flowering and performing that are in season.

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This means that gardeners can take away ideas to try in their own patches especially plant partnerships. Just look at the photo of the Echinacea and Achillea together, a combination we have used before but not in that colour combination, which looks so fresh and lively. And alongside that photo another showing the same Achillea with Helenium. This pale lemon Achillea appeared on many of the show gardens and looks a very worthwhile plant.

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We were pleased to see grasses being used in fresh ways too especially smaller ones with gentle whispy flowers which showed off  one of their attributes, moving in the wind, so well. They were used with Chocolate Cosmos on one garden and with Veronicas on another, both equally effective.

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Our favourite garden was this one by a young designer, his first ever RHS garden and he received a Gold. He was a very happy designer! We spoke to him for a long while and he explained his ideas and choice of plants to us. It was a fresh lively garden and as he pointed out to us not expensive to build. The strength of the design was in the use of triangles, which in itself is unusual.

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This garden illustrated how corton steel can be used really well as long as the planting co-ordinates with it too. The pics show how well the steel and the plants worked together.

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“Grow Your Own” was a feature in several gardens and appeared throughout all aspects of the show. Look at these smart raised beds and great ways to support climbing beans.

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And of course no show based on creativity is complete without a little quirkiness! How about purple and lime green cauliflowers or a water feature based on recycled exhaust pipes, multicoloured birdboxes and even a rainbow of ribbons.

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And of course there are always a few plants in the Floral Marquee or in the show gardens large and small that catch our eyes.

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After that little diversion we can return to the show gardens which appealed to us.

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I shall follow this post about the RHS Tatton Park Show with two more, one celebrating the gardeners of the future and one the colours that made the show so vibrant.


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A town riverside walk

Although we live close to our county town of Shrewsbury we go for months between visits to the banks of the River Severn, in whose loops the town sits snuggly. In the summer the council garnish the river banks with bright coloured plants in all sorts of containers and hanging baskets.

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I am not that keen on these brightly coloured bedding annuals but they seem to fit in with their setting so well here. Mother nature herself adds a little subtle planting herself with wild flowers growing close to the water and wonderful waterfalls of reflections.

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Our footbridge an old Victorian suspension bridge has recently been completely refurbished and it is looking smart in its new green suit. The builders greatest challenge was to make sure that after the make-over the old bridge retained her sway. As you walk across her she sways from side to side!

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This weekend is time for the famous Shrewsbury Flower Show so when we reached the open parkland spaces alongside the river we found signs of the village of tents and rows of arena seats appearing at a great rate of knots. It seemed to be growing up around us as we walked towards the little sunken garden called The Dingle.We now anticipate our day out at the show on Saturday most eagerly. We hope to go in the afternoon and stay until closing time with the magnificent firework display over the river.

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And so to the Dingle herself, which is not my cup of tea at all, but it is enjoyed by thousands every year. It is all a bit garish for my taste, but I do admit that it takes a great deal of skill to create and maintain it. It certainly gives pride to the town. Come on a tour with us and see what you think.

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We wandered back into the town centre to have a look at how the town council had decorated the Square as part of their “Britain in Bloom” campaign. All the allotment sites in and around the town had planted up mini-allotments small enough to fit on a pallet and these were collected up and put in the square. Local artists crafted two scarecrows from metal to give an extra dimension.

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Each post marking loading bays along the High Street had been given a topknot of Ipomaea in two foliage colours. Very subtle and very effective.

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A Wander around the Allotments in August

August is when the busy harvest period begins. As land is cleared green manures are sown and compost is spread across empty spaces. Plans for next year’s gardening are beginning to form.

Another amusing sign has appeared on a plot in recent weeks. Doreen and Phil have a corner plot and it has been christened “The Naughty Corner”. Next to their plot, Gill has hung some vibrant decorations in her fruit.

Wendy’s plot is always full of interest and at the moment the star of the show has to be the glitter ball hanging inside an obelisk up which is growing Morning Glory.

We have had a very successful month where awards are concerned, some for the whole site and others for individual allotment holders. Jude and I were invited to the Shrewsbury Flower Show to receive an award for the allotment site. Chris Beardshaw, author, broadcaster and TV gardener presented me, on behalf of our allotment site, with the award for “Shropshire’s Best Community Garden”.

Bowbrook Allotment Community members also provided plants for a show garden created by the Shrewsbury Residents Association – herbs, vegetables and companion plants. This garden won a medal.

The two daughters of our Membership Secretary entered craft and art classes in the Honey Tent and won many certificates too. Their honey cakes and biscuits looked so tasty.

Jude and I also took part in the Shropshire Organic Gardeners Society stand at the show. Members were asked to provide photos of themselves with a pot plants and these took centre stage.

Dave Bagguley one of our plot holders was awarded Shrewsbury’s “Best Front Garden” award at the show.

Back at the lotties the Autumn Garden, one of the site’s “Gardens of the Four Seasons” is beginning to look really good, with the late summer/early autumn perennials blooming in their hot colours.

The meadows around the site are incredibly colourful at the moment but the early flowering ones are well-past their best. They will soon be due their annual haircut.

We like to leave the meadows’ annual haircuts as late as possible so delay them until seeds are well set and there is an obvious decrease in the amount of wildlife visitor activity. But in the Buddleja Borders the beautiful scented flowers are still bringing in so many butterflies, bees and hoverflies.

This year’s periods of extreme wet have taken their toll. Whole potato crops have rotted on plots and root crops badly split.

As I was finishing writing this post I heard that our site’s entry into the Shrewsbury Town Allotment Competition came out the winner, so well done to Sue and Paul from Plot 40. Here are a few shots of their plot to finish off this post.

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Third Visit to the Tatton Park Show

The third and final post about this summer’s RHS Tatton Park Flower Show begins by visiting the Back-to-Back Gardens, the small show gardens with masses of interest and appeals. These gardens are full of ideas for gardeners whatever the size of their gardens with inspiration for planting combinations, furniture and features.

There was a group of small show gardens designed around the theme of “The Orchestra” and these turned out to be our favourites. The garden designers had risen to the challenge and seemed to have really enjoyed creating such imaginative gardens. Each one evoked harmony and rhythm and the rise and fall of a musical piece.

But this garden of rhythmic grass was a true delight to the eye. It was very difficult to fully capture its effect with a camera, but not as difficult as it would be to cut the grass!

In complete contrast to the Orchestra Gardens were the Conceptual Gardens, a set of three designs intended to present ideas, sometimes controversial, and make the viewers think. We do not always appreciate such designs but the trio this year were full of meaning and original design ideas.

We always enjoy a wander around the nursery stands at these shows and Tatton always attracts a good variety. We only bought one little plants this time though, an Aeonium that sports leaves of deepest, shiny purple almost black, called Logan’s Rock.

But this nursery stand all based on pink was empty. The discerning gardener this year definitely dislikes pink!

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More from the Tatton Park Flower Show

We always enjoy visiting the Floral Marquee at any RHS Show and try to sneak a good look around before they get too crowded. At Tatton Show we just made it as the crowds began to build. It was worth it as there were some wonderful plants to look at some of which were beautifully displayed. As usual our favourites were the grasses.

Within the plants on display there were some effective little details that drew out attention to have a closer look.

Throughout the showground were unusual containers used as planters from old boots to oil cans.

But as always the stars of the show were the plants. the trend in this show was for combining grasses with Achilleas particularly those with cream, russet and orange flowers.

As with all RHS shows in recent years fruit and veggies starred alongside the flowers.

And we mustn’t forget the herbs.

We were interested to see a garden devoted to the importance of community gardens and in particular the RHS “Its Your Neighbourhood” scheme as our allotment site is part of it. The before and after garden was designed by Chris Beardshaw one of the UK’s best garden designers as well as a writer and TV gardener. His garden showed how groups of volunteer gardeners can improve an urban derelict wasteland.

The before ……….

……….. and the after!

In the final report about Tatton Park RHS Show my post will be about the Conceptual Gardens, the Back-to-Back Gardens and the plant sale area.

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A Day at the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

We have been to the Chelsea Flower Show, Harrogate Flower Shows and The Autumn and spring Malvern Flower Shows but the one we enjoy the most is always the one set in the grounds of Tatton Park. Luckily this is the RHS show closest to home. Although Chelsea is often called the greatest flower show, having visited once we have no desire to go again. But we frequently go to Tatton.

Tatton Park Show is described as “the North’s greatest garden party”. We enjoy its large show gardens, its “Back to Back” gardens and children’s gardens but most of all those designed by young garden designers. This is where the UK’s garden designs of the future lie and the standards are always so high. The designers have to be under 28 and this year their brief was to design a garden based on the theme of “colour”. We were so pleased when we learnt that the designer of our favourite one of these gardens had won the accolade of “RHS National Young Designer of the Year”. Tristen Knight designed this garden using recycled materials and it was full of interesting and original ideas and design feature. The colour of his planting of perennials and grasses was beautiful, all orange and biscuit. He studied for a BA in Industrial Design and Technology before training in garden design at Writtle College. He spoke with great enthusiasm and excitement about his garden and he told us about the materials he had chosen and how they were all items from building sites. For example the rill was formed from a an “H” beam and the flexible screening was created from scaffolding boards. I found it hard to take photographs that did justice to this brilliant young designer’s work. We enjoyed his garden and talking to him about it.

We moved on to the main large garden show gardens, some of which we liked whereas others we did not like at all. But that I suppose is what design is all about. If we all liked the same plants and designs wouldn’t gardens be boring?

I begin looking at this set of gardens by featuring our favourite, a garden based on circles achieving a wonderful peaceful atmosphere through the planting which was light and wispy. It relied heavily on grasses to do so, with one planting area consisting of just grasses and one variety of allium.

It received the Best in Show award!

This show garden featured decking curves and colourful planting choice.

The next sequence of photos illustrates the wide variety of show gardens at Tatton. Enjoy the tour.

Once we had enjoyed the large show gardens we made a bee line for the garden designed by students and staff of Reaseheath College, partly because their garden is always so interesting with elements of attracting wildlife but also because this is the college where I followed some of my horticulture training several decades ago. This year their garden excelled, with such vibrancy in the planting and in its features. Again the design integrated beautiful features created to attract wildlife.

To finish my first post about the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show I want to share a couple of photos of children’s gardens celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee. In the next post we shall visit the Floral Marquee and the smaller show gardens.